Any couple will be able to confirm that wedding planning can be stressful, so it makes sense to opt for a honeymoon that will soothe your soul and get married life off to a relaxing start. Bali, that haven of beaches, labyrinthine temples and truly superlative spas, is a place many people call paradise.
My journey starts in Seminyak, a beachy outpost on the southern end of the island, filled with buzzing restaurants and boutique shops. I’m staying at Alila Seminyak Bali, a beautiful, foliage-filled seafront hotel with panoramic views of the ocean and one of the best infinity pools I’ve ever experienced – it sits right alongside the water and you have a wonderful view of the tiny birds nesting in the hotel’s bamboo-covered façade.
Before the relaxation starts in earnest, I head out for a quick culture fix. I start at Pura Gede Luhur Batu Ngaus, a 17th-century fertility temple made from black volcanic rock that stretches out to sea. It’s filled with brightly-coloured canangs – offerings containing flower petals, fruit and rice – and there are apple-red crabs scuttling all over its walls. Next, it’s on to Hotel Tugu, a fascinating museum heaving with shadow puppets, Ming-dynasty vases, ornate gongs, intricate jewellery, legions of crafted statues and a veritable armory of weapons. I top things off with cocktails at sunset in the Insta-worthy La Laguna beach bar, strewn with jewel-coloured gypsy caravans, antique chandeliers and hundreds of storm lanterns (try the La Favela Breeze with dragon fruit and peach liqueur).
Back at Alila Seminyak Bali, I settle down to an absolutely superb dinner of butterfish, softshell crab, prawn dumplings, almost unfeasibly tender beef, and crispy pork belly before practically rolling back to my room to sleep ahead of another day of blissing out.
I wake with the sun for a spot of Nauli yoga in front of the waves. Essentially a form of abdominal massage, Nauli is all about changing the way you breathe – sucking in your stomach and then moving the muscles of your core to massage your internal organs. I am not particularly adept at it, but after an hour or so of puffing and contorting I feel refreshed and ready to hit the spa.
A Balinese spa is, for many, the real draw of the island. The laid-back focus on rest and relaxation is precisely what I enjoy for the next few hours. If you don’t opt to take a couple’s massage in your large, comfortable suite, Alila’s on-site spa has an incredible selection of treatments to dive into. I opt for a zingy ginger and lemongrass body scrub followed by a wonderfully mellow hot-stone massage with juniper oil and a spot of reflexology. A little bleary-eyed and completely de-stressed, I make my way across to the open-air restaurant in my dressing gown for a delicious, detoxifying lunch of nori rolls, courgetti and raw brownies. Saintly!
Next stop is the wonderfully jungly Alila Villas Uluwatu, a serene collection of private villas perched on a clifftop high above the Java Sea. You’ll be soothed by an orchestra of birdsong and monkey chatter. Even the lobby is stunning, dripping with traditional art work, hanging lanterns, reeds, wildflowers and bird-of-paradise flowers. Make sure that you visit the bathrooms in the lobby area opposite the bridal suite – they are completely al fresco, surrounded by babbling water and overlooked by head sculptures staring straight at you – one of the most unique loo breaks you’re ever likely to take!
The one-bed pool villas here come with private, enclosed plunge pools and outrageously comfy daybeds (you can also get your breakfast delivered directly to your villa at any time of the day). Order the in-room spa treatments or have dinner in one of the beautiful birdcage cabanas, which are filled with hundreds of tiny tealights, for ultimate romance.
The food at Alila Villas Uluwatu is certainly something to write home about. Quila, the fine dining restaurant run by executive chef Marc Lorés Panadés, is a beautiful oubliette room filled with mirrors, batik prints, candles and fragrant frangipani. I’m lucky enough to try the adventurous 10-course tasting menu (paired with 10 different wines). Seafood is served with conch shells that you hold to your ear to listen to the sea, while beetroot is iced and served as sorbet. My favourite course is the Uluwatu mushroom dessert – not a mushroom in fact, but a sculpted meringue, ice cream, edible soil and a healthy serving of atmospheric dry ice for some drama.
Later, I fall asleep to the sound of rolling tropical storms and lashings of rain. I rise early the next day for a spot of paddleboard yoga (not as hard as it sounds) as the rising sun bounces off the calm ocean.
I round off my trip with a Signature touch massage (Balinese massage combines gentle stretching with long, therapeutic strokes) in the hotel’s spa, Alila. This is one of the roomiest and most luxurious spa locations I’ve ever stepped foot in, with vast suites for each guest. I depart feeling grounded, detoxified, de-stressed – and just about ready to plunge back into normal life.
The Luxury Holiday Company offers a seven-night trip to Bali from £1,875 per person, based on two sharing and includes return flights with Qatar Airways, private transfers, three nights at Alila Seminyak Bali on a B&B basis, and two nights at Alila Villa Uluwatu on a B&B basis. Price is based on travel from 3 April–12 July 2018* and should be booked 60 days in advance. *book to stay in April and receive a free night at Alila Seminyak.